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since the last time I got it together to post. I do apologize for this. However, one part of the journey has been learning that, despite my trying to deny it for many years, browbeating myself to do ‘better,’ and desperately hoping for some kind of medical solution, I’ve simply got lower energy than other people — whatever the cause may be — and can’t always accomplish everything I set out to do. Especially since my life has been much busier than heretofore over the last month or so. And this is okay.
I’ve started a new academic career, in a field related to gender and sexual orientation. Much to my chagrin, many of the professors are coming at it from a place of a huge amount of unexamined straight and cis privilege and centrism, that really keeps them from perceiving a big part of their field.
It’s very frustrating. Read the rest of this entry »
Historically, one of the first lines of attack for what we could term the liberal gay and lesbian movement in combating prejudice in the mainstream was targeting stereotypes in the media. And one of the most vigorously and consistently attacked stereotypes was the presentation of queer men as effeminate.
Those of us around at that time will remember the disgust directed at Jack from Will and Grace. Before him there was Jody of Soap, Harvey Fierstein and Scott Capurro’s characters in Mrs. Doubtfire, and Robin Williams and Nathan Lane’s characters in The Birdcage. Conversely, any gay character who isn’t femme is lauded for breaking stereotypes (as if masculinity weren’t itself a stereotype of men).
The reductio ad absurdum came when the boys of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy were accused of incarnating gay stereotypes. One of them in particular (I forget which one) reacted with irritation, because he wasn’t asked to portray any stereotype at all, but was simply being himself. Read the rest of this entry »
Trigger warning for suicide and for gender-based familial and psychologist-inflicted violence and abuse behind the cut — this one is pretty grim.
This is the tragic and infuriating story of a young man who was subjected to mental and physical abuse by his parents, at the behest of a “therapist,” because he was unmasculine. The therapist used him as a data point supposedly validating his “therapy” for “unwanted” gender presentation and the gayness with which he linked it. Despite growing into a superficially successful adult, he was never able to heal from the trauma this had caused and took his own life at age 38. His sister and brother are left to pick up the pieces.
Little children assigned as boys who are effeminate, flamey, into ‘girls’ toys’ or cross-gender identified have always received attention but most of it has been decidedly negative, ranging from [NOTE: possible triggers in these articles!] Dr. Phil’s recent nonsense to decidedly creepy gay panic to disturbing, abusive, and of course completely unscientific “therapies” (more on these later) and all the way to murder.
That’s why it’s been decidedly refreshing over the last few months that there’s been a minor drumroll of books and blogs by parents raising their fey kids: Cheryl Kilodavis’s book My Princess Boy, the went-viral post “My Son is Gay” at Nerdy Apple Bottom, and Raising My Rainbow are just a few of them.
What wigs me out a little bit is the reaction that some of these parents get: concern trolls freaking out about the irreparable harm they may be doing to their sons by — what? letting them dress in pink and play with My Little Ponies?
Never, for these folks, does it enter the equation that just maybe they might be doing more harm by forcing the kid to stifle their gender identity and their harmless self-expression, learn to hate and be afraid of femininity in themself and others, and come to understand they disappoint and frighten their parents and other grown-ups just by being themself.
I’m not a parent, I don’t plan to be a parent (I can’t even deal with my cats), and I wasn’t extraordinarily girly as a child, although I definitely wasn’t what you’d call boyish either. But I have to say kudos to these parents for loving their children and being committed to encouraging them in being who they are and pushing others to do likewise.
p.s. As full of fail as I understand the show is in so many ways, I’d like to give it up to Glee for portraying not only a sympathetic, unabashedly effeminate male character in Kurt Hummel, portrayed by the adorable Chris Colfer, but also showing the tender, loving, and accepting relationship between him and his very traditionally masculine dad. I sort of wish I had a TV and the time necessary to watch the show (and could stomach its transphobia, racism, ableism, and other kinds of nonsense), just so I could follow how Kurt is doing.
A lot of people with the privilege to never have to think about how they identify (in terms of gender and sexuality) because they are the default like to complain about other people being “obsessed with labels”. Usually, they are the ones imposing labels on other people that align with their own experiences of the world instead of just listening to what someone actually says about themselves. I’ve had people ask me what gender I am, get a response from me, and then disagree with me because it wasn’t a response that fit with their expectations. That’s right; disagree with me about my own gender. It never fails to astonish me.
– from the mind behind In Praise of Shame, who was recently so kind as to link here.
Robby’s 5-year-old son loves to play with Barbies and prefers wearing girl’s clothes. She asks Dr. Phil how to deal with this behavior, which she doesn’t think is normal.[…]
Dr. Phil tells Robby that she has a job to do: “Direct your son in an unconfusing way. Don’t buy him Barbie dolls or girl’s clothes. You don’t want to do things that seem to support the confusion at this stage of the game … Take the girl things away, and buy him boy toys.”
Most importantly, he tells Robby, “Support him in what he’s doing, but not in the girl things.”
Bilerico contributor Alex Blaze observes:
The goal is not to make this boy happy. What the boy wants does not concern Dr. Phil; he neither asks about it nor does he respect what he’s told the boy wants, advising the mother to steam-roll over her son’s personality and force him to replace his desires with other desires.
The goal is to make the boy normal, because everyone’s goal in life is to make the Dr. Phils of the world more comfortable.
ETA: Here’s an additional opinion from a mom of a femme boy, under the admirably blunt title “Dr. Phil Wants To Make My Son Cry”:
“Most importantly, support him in what he’s doing, but not in the girl things.”
Nice. Only support half of your child; you can support all of them if they fall in the range of “normal.” I should support C.J.’s brother because he is into video games, baseball, skateboarding and fart jokes. But, I shouldn’t support C.J. completely because he likes dolls, playing beauty parlor, doing girly sticker books and walking around in my high heels. Support him, but only half way. Let him know that only certain parts of him are okay. To me this is the worst suggestion of the bunch.
Bill C-389 passed. The House of Commons voted — narrowly, but with support from every party — to outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in federal areas of jurisdiction and to consider crimes based on those grounds as hate crimes.
I’ve been working on this issue for a really long time and it’s an incredible relief and joy. For me, both as a genderqueer person and as someone in love with a trans man, it really hits home.
Let’s hear it for Bill Siksay, the bill’s sponsor and the NDP’s LGBTT issues critic. He’s a wonderful person and he’s retiring from the House at the end of this parliament, and I can’t think of a better legacy to leave behind.
It now must pass the Senate before the next election in order to become law. But if this should fail to happen, either because it gets defeated in the Conservative-dominated Senate or an election is called before it passes, the NDP has a very solid groundwork for reintroducing it in the next Parliament until it finally is passed. In the meantime, I hope the provinces move on introducing their own bills, to cover provincial areas of jurisdiction as well.
But enough of this. At least for a day or two, let’s celebrate
I already knew it was going to be amazing to be in San Francisco over the Solstice season, and the prospect of an unchained Pagan bonfire on Ocean Beach after two days of Radical Faerie space was already exciting enough. Let alone one, as a commenter pointed out, held while Mercury is in retrograde and there’s a lunar eclipse.
Even then, though, I certainly did not expect to abruptly decide to join the people who were taking all their clothes off and scampering into the Pacific Ocean. (The thought process basically went: “I live in freaking Montreal. How many chances am I going to run naked into the water on the Winter Solstice that don’t involve a hot tub?”)
Anyway, it’s a beautiful season of synchronicity in my life right now, and I’ve been taking advantage of it to think about the uses of gender and sacred androgyny in my Pagan practice, and a few issues arising from it. I won’t expand too much on that practice itself at present*. But here are a few recent things I had really interesting and valuable discussions of during those four days.
I’ve found that, as in all things, it’s super important to consider my cissexual privilege in doing sacred androgyny work. Two different trans friends made more or less the same observation within a few days, in slightly different contexts, that encouraging people to think outside the gender binary plays way differently if you’re speaking to cis or genderqueer people than if you’re speaking to trans people (particularly transsexual people who identify clearly as men or as women).
Today is the international day for the depathologization of trans identities. Trans people around the world are calling on psychological and psychiatric authorities to stop considering their identities to be disease states, and demanding full access to transition-related care as a human right, without requiring a diagnosis of mental illness.
As we speak, a team of psychiatrists is working to rewrite the notorious Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-IV), revising among others the articles dealing with trans identities and cross-dressing. Yes, cross-dressing is currently considered evidence of mental illness – but only in men.
It doesn’t inspire confidence that the committee is headed by the dread Dr. Kenneth Zucker, head of the gender clinic at Toronto’s Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (a.k.a. “Jurassic Clarke”). Say his name to most any Canadian trans person and watch them shudder.
I’m running all over today, but I’ll expand more on these themes in an upcoming blog post.
From time to time, I get into a discussion that goes more or less along the following lines: there’s pressure on straight men to be masculine, and there’s pressure on queer men to be feminine, and both are equally bad. Or: some queer men will reject you for being too femme, and others will reject you for being too butch. Or: you are just feminine because it’s expected of you as a queer man; you’re just conforming to the stereotype and either putting on a show for the straight people or trying to impress other queers.
Not to be too blunt about it, but I’m always forced to wonder which planet these people grew up on. Where in heaven’s name is this mythical pressure on any (cissexual) man to be feminine? Where have they ever seen it? What evidence or experience can they possibly point at to back up what they’re saying? Who do they imagine I am impressing by being this way?
Let me tell you what pressure I had in my life to be femme, either before or after I came out: none.
“To me the important question—the important test for the political underpinnings of a policy or a theory—is, ‘Does it place a value on the lives of people of varying sexualities, on their experiences, on their survival, on their rights to dignity and expression and thought?’ I don’t think that there’s any way to guarantee that from either minoritizing or universalizing, or either essentialist or antiessentialist points of view. Any of those can offer fuel for homophobic and queer-eradicating forces and energies. Any of them can also be useful for projects that do value the survival of these people and acts and cultures and possibilities.
So I’m uncomfortable seeing the question of survival, support, and so forth being collapsed with any version of the essentialist-constructionist question. I see those as basically different questions. It’s time that people asked, for instance, politicians, ‘Do you value the survival and possibilities of these people and these potentials?’ Not ‘Do you believe X or Y about the hypothalamus and what would that lead to?’ That can lead to a lot of different things. The question of the value of people’s lives and contributions seems to me a different one, and a nonnegotiable one.”
— Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (in: Williams, Jeffrey. “Sedgwick Unplugged: An interview with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” Critics at work: interviews, 1993-2003. New York UP, 2004. p. 246.
This post will be kind of scattered and unpolished, because I’ve been neglecting my blog for like two weeks, disappointing my immense legions of followers who hang from every word that drops from my perfectly outlined, naturally full lips. (okay, I’ll just stop.) So I’m going to just post it, and if I want to add more later, I’ll do a different post.
I don’t like carrying too much stuff in my pockets (it ruins the line of skinny jeans), so throughout my undergraduate career I used one of those black, heavy-duty cotton messenger bags, which I covered with buttons with all kinds of subversive and inappropriate slogans. (Sadly, the bag bit the dust some time ago, but I still have all the buttons.) I also had a similar but smaller bag with a shoulder strap that I used for going out, and a couple of other messenger bags.
From time to time I offhandedly referred to whatever bag I had at that time as my purse. I mean, it had my wallet, my keys, my cell phone, and whatever other crap I was routinely hauling around. And frequently I would get someone (men and women alike) who would reflexively correct me. “Your bag.”
I’m not sure whether she coined it, but in her book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (strongly recommended, BTW), author Julia Serano brings the word “transmisogyny” to greater attention. She defines transmisogyny separately from transphobia — hatred faced by any trans person as a result of their trans status — describing it as follows:
Transmisogyny: Sexism that specifically targets those on the trans female/trans feminine spectrums. It arises out of a synergetic interaction between oppositional and traditional sexism. It accounts for why MTF spectrum trans people tend to be more regularly demonized and ridiculed than their FTM spectrum counterparts, and why trans women face certain forms of sexualization and misogyny that are rarely (if ever) applied to non-trans women.